ASPEN - In the latest turns of events behind the scenes at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Rob LeBuhn, the chairman of the board of trustees, has been replaced, and Alan Fletcher, the previously embattled president and CEO of the organization, has been offered a two-year extension on his contract.
An announcement from the Music Festival on Monday evening said that LeBuhn, who had been chairman of the board for one year, "stepped down" from the position. But it also said that the move came after a "majority vote" of the 48-member board at a special meeting Monday afternoon. LeBuhn is being replaced by Michael Murray, the Music Festival's vice chairman, who will serve as chairman till the board selects a new head.
Also at the meeting, Fletcher was offered a contract extension that would run through September 2012. Fletcher said last night that he would accept the offer.
The moves represent not only continued drama at the 61-year-old institution, but also a dramatic reversal. Last fall, Fletcher was ousted from the presidency by the executive committee of the Music Festival board, a committee headed by LeBuhn. A month later, a vote by the full board reinstated Fletcher, who has served as chief executive of the organization since 2006.
Then in April, a calm period was disrupted when David Zinman, the Music Festival's music director, abruptly resigned. In a statement to Aspen newspapers, Zinman cited an "inability to work" with Fletcher as the reason for his resignation. Later that month a special meeting of the Music Festival corporation, a body that includes board members and faculty, was convened, and a majority of the members voted to pass a no-confidence resolution against Fletcher. The measure had no official effect, as the power to hire and fire the president lies with the board of trustees, not the corporation. At the time, Fletcher stated, "It's really the board's decision what this means for the position of the president."
Fletcher said that Monday's vote was an indication that the board has confidence in him, and was focused on the essential mission of the Music Festival - to educate students and to present concerts.
"I think this board has really always been with me," he said, "and I'm grateful to them. I think they've stepped up, and it's an affirmation of where we need to be - to get the music director search set.
"Here's what I hope this means - that we all move out of this. Let's put this behind the scenes, where it belongs. Let's focus on the summer coming, and let's get it great."
The Music Festival, the biggest arts nonprofit in Aspen, thus enters its 2010 season, which opens July 1, without a music director and an interim chairman of the board of trustees. A search committee is currently looking to hire a replacement for Zinman, and, according to Monday's announcement, the board's nominating committee will develop a slate of officers to be recommended to the full board prior to its next meeting on July 29.
But the organization does have a president, and he appears to have the backing of the board.
"In Alan, we have a man of great strength and vision who can lead this institution into its next era of greatness," Murray said in Monday's announcement. "He enjoys broad support among our patrons, board members and national council as well as among volunteers, staff and the Aspen community. We are pleased that he will continue as our leader, and we stand behind him as we work to resolve our differences and move toward a brighter future."